Saturday, January 01, 2011

Saturday 1 January 2011 – NEW YEARS DAY


Saturday 1 January 2011 – NEW YEARS DAY

A new year and I begin it with awaking on a sofa.  There was no need for a cover last night, the world was warm enough.  Sprawl everywhere are the contents of my pocket, my coins, credit cards and other trinkets.  This is my life laid bare, reduced to very little (not very much).  Checking my pocket my £4500 Travelcard is missing.  Briefly I panic but then thankfully come across it in the debris.  This takes hubris.

I struggled with my first sleep of 2011; I guess this is due to number of Pro Plus that I took last night pretending to Chris at one point that it was Ecstasy.  In the end I think I would have got through without them.

Checking my watch the time is already approaching 9AM.  We will all need to be on from the off this morning.  Will this happen?  Will this be possible?  This remains to be answered.

With things quiet on the Northern front here in Finsbury Park I begin the year by listening to a Guardian Football Weekly podcast while spread out leisurely on the sofa.  I did not use or require covering last night, this flat felt subtly like a sauna and with a few shards of light now cutting through the curtains things feel unseasonably tropical.  Quite frankly I feel relaxed for the first time in a very long time.

To my relief people eventually begin murmuring relatively early and at a decent hour but I have to admit/concede to being fearful of seeing Racton first thing this New Year.  Truly Chris and I must have weighed him down by the end of last night.  My recollections of the kebab shop are not necessarily positive ones.

Thankfully all appears gravy and soon we are beginning to appreciate that it is Saturday morning.  The only way is up.

Gradually Chris and Eleanor wake from their respective lairs of slumber and soon get in the game as Racton begins grilling up some bacon sandwiches.  Breakfast is served.

On the news this morning is footage from all the New Years celebrations across the world.  That and a prison riot that has kicked off at Ford Open Prison in West Sussex which prompts us to needle Chris for his expert opinion.  Truly it is too early to be talking shop.

Originally we held half a plan to go see Tron 2 at the cinema this afternoon but now that truly does not seem feasible.

Before long we are exiting home and boarding a bus to Finsbury Park tube station and heading down one stop to Highbury & Islington where our New Year opening awaits.  By now Mark has touched bass saying how he wound up in Sloane Square last night.  The other half.

Upon arrival at The Garage there is a surprising queue outside the venue.  Mainly it consists of bleary eyed revellers, grungy people and nerds.  To reiterate this point as we head towards the entrance Chris stood behind stumbles into me accidentally smearing banana on the back of my coat.  Who gave him a banana?  Naturally I kick off as some fat woman in the queue makes unnecessary comment.  Would she like to nibble it off my back?

Inside The Garage is rammed.  Why was I not expecting this?  For some reason even at this hour the bar is busy and because the gimmick of the day is Pop Tarts and Bloody Marys the requirement of the bar stuff to supply the latter is really holding up proceedings.  As Chris struggles to command the attention of bar staff some guy behind me stands really tight.  Unsurprisingly with all these elements it doesn’t take me long to become tetchy.

Eventually we get served as with a Coke in each hand I become concerned as I spill fizzy drink all over my iPhone.  By this point Racton has spotted Mark and gone running off as he appears to have ditched us.

When you are tired, tetchy and slightly hungover a gleaming smiling face is not necessarily the way you wish/want to be greeted into the new day.  And unfortunately this is how Mark bids us a “Happy New Year”.

From here we take up the “Tortoise spot” as we head for a good view of the band.  As soon as we get our space an annoying female voice has a go at Mark for standing in front of her and being tall.  This is a gig faux pas on her part, not his.

With this midday comes and goes prompting the question “where is SHELLAC?”  Eventually they step out onstage with the explanation that they were waiting for people to getting in which starkly takes me back to the first time I SHELLAC when they supported Fugazi and that night the beginning of the gig had to put back to let everybody in.

Predictably the band gauges the audience for who has stayed up all night.  With this there are some cheers and even some groans.  At this point Todd Trainer stands up and shows us three fingers.  He’s been up for three days?  To look at him it’s believable.  To this Steve Albini adds how this morning they were driven to the venue through the empty streets of London and how it was eerie and beautiful in a post-apocalyptic manner.

With this they pound and plunder into their set opening with “Ghosts”.  It’s a slow burn of pokerfaced menace and a gentle ease into proceedings on this laboured morning.  Seemingly more measured and casual than usual eventually the song explodes as above us Bob Weston chips in with his backing vocals.

Now with their stall opened up and ready to play they coast into a new song as fresh material begins to fill and heavily occupy their current sets.  By the third song the set already attains a substantially and significantly better status than last night as the band launches into “My Black Ass”.  As ever it sounds great, wilfully nasty and looking to offend.  More than anything else though this is a song that feels like it has a purpose which in this day and age is a rare commodity in music.

Today Bob Weston is a sporting a “Nantucket Sucks” t-shirt which during the first Q&A prompts an initial question from the audience of “why does Nantucket suck?” to a reply of “have you been there?”

From here the set continues to pound as SHELLAC remains one of the few remaining acts that are able to pull off such an intense spiel without corpsing.  The songs they play and the words they sing are at a surface level about devastation but there is a distinct knowing to the delivery, one that a confident and smart audience is able to tap into and respond with in kind.  There is something very mutually beneficial with this agreement.

They follow with “Steady As She Goes” which is beginning to prove the strongest song in their live set to come from their most recent record (Excellent Italian Greyhound) which then mutates into a storming version of “Copper” that sees Albini work his guitar into an enriching frenzy that sees doing his little tapping finger trick on his spewing instrument as it crashes to a spectacular but still tight conclusion.  This is the point at which we are finding ourselves being handed our asses.

Eventually the day arrives at “Wingwalker” as yet again it feels like the hugest song in rock history.  As ever it sounds different to the last time they played and once more it feels as if it has gained a few more minutes, a few more feet.  This train remains pummelling as the band genuinely feel as if they have taken to the skies as the latest gripes of Albini get an airing in devastating fashion.  With this after reaching majestic heights as per the order they take things down low, almost to the point of no return before rising from the ashes like some blood drenched phoenix that would not appreciate such cliché.  This is THE SHELLAC song, the one I play people in order to sell them on the band.  And today it is no less effective.

If that peak were not enough with this they promptly dive into “Prayer To God” as the most aggressive track in this arsenal is unleashed in the usual hateful fashion.  Anger never felt so fruitful.  This is a song that prompts the scariest of singalongs.  “Prayer To God” is a song about wish fulfilment and the living out of fantasy.  To be opening 2011 with such sentiments can only suggest worrying things ahead.

A spotless set continues with SHELLAC standards such as “Canada” and “Dog And Pony Show” before the band begins to clock how far we have all come with this experiment.

Towards the end more jokes fly in.  The good come from Bob Weston and one he apparently got from the singer of The Pop Group last night in the form of: “did you hear about the magic tractor?  It turned into a field”.  Boom!  Albini then lowers the tone with “what’s blue and fucks old women?  Me in my lucky blue suit!”  Shouldn’t that be “rape”?

From here they race to the finish line with the ever tense and elongated “Crow” before stamping a close on proceedings with “Watch Song” and more gestures of aggression and possible violence.

And then that’s it.  Everyone is wrecked, everyone is happy.  Nothing is ruined.  2011 just started off the biggest bang.  Briefly the world feels like a better place.

As we exit The Garage we lose Mark.  Suspicions are that he has bumped into somebody he knows and indeed once outside it is Rup.  I haven’t seen this guy in ages, not since his last record came out.  Its great to see him but I hardly exhibit such a motion as I begin to feel fatigue from the previous twenty four hours.  I’m getting too old for the rock and roll lifestyle.

With early afternoon now kicking in we collectively begin making gestures to grabbing some food but as we walk down Upper Street so many stores and restaurants are closed.  This is I guess how it should be on such a holiday.

On the way down the street we pass a man taking the largest, fluffiest, shaggiest dog in history for a walk.  What a poser but what a beautiful animal.  It is one of the most magnificent animals I have ever seen; its head is huge and friendly looking.  Dogs are so much more better than humans, especially on a day such as this.

Initially we aim for a specific pizza place (pizza sounds exactly what I need right now) unfortunately when we arrive it is closed.  In the end we wind up in some French restaurant called Le Mercury.  Having slept in my clothes I feel too scruffy/shabby for this place and the menu seems a bit lightweight to me.  Alas I have no say.

Despite the gorgeous surroundings and equally gorgeous waitress it turns out to be a tense meal (at least from my perspective).  After a heavy night out and a heavy lunchtime session the last thing I feel necessary now is a heavy meal and heavy conversation.  And while Racton and Mark go off in their bourgeois directions and destinations of conversation Chris begins reading his newspaper while I begin to glaze over.

When the food arrives it hardly inspires.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  I order some kind of pork belly but when it arrives it offers modest returns.  Undaunted I tear into the dish although it hardly inspires or offers a degree of glamour.  After the big party and new year opening, this now truly feels like a comedown, extraneous and extracurricular.

Eventually we get through eating and finally pay up and leave but not before time which leaves me feeling frustrated and bleak regarding the year ahead.  How can things switch so quickly?

By now the time is heading towards 4PM as we exchange details of our respective plans for the afternoon.  Much to my chagrin it sounds as if I have been served the pissy biscuit as a bus and rail replacement service faces me on my train journey home.

With this all four of us head along Upper Street back towards Highbury & Islington station and onto our eventual destinations.  At this point Racton and Mark head off north while Chris and I look east.  And soon Chris heads off in his own direction also as we exchange a hug and say how great it has been to catch up.  Then with that I head towards Liverpool Street to negotiate what is a very cloudy set of instructions for this New Years rail replacement service.

After changing lines at Kings Cross I finally get to Liverpool Street to see what the deal is and as I emerge into the station is soon becomes apparent that National Express East Anglia are indeed not bothering to put on a functioning train service today.  Any excuse will do.

From here I trudge back down onto the tube where I head towards the eastbound Central Line platform and aim for Newbury Park as instructed.  Things fail to improve as it soon becomes apparent that I have a ten minute wait for the next train.

As my will for 2011 begins to decrease by the minute when I finally find myself aboard a train as it gets to Gants Hill with the time at 4.55PM Information Jimmy suddenly announces that no trains are stopping at Newbury Park even though that is where the replacement buses are supposedly waited.  With fresh confusion we begin exiting the station looking for answers where a mob has descended on a station manager that looks like Alastair Campbell.  That’s not a good look for a person in low authority.

It turns out that there has been a road accident in the Newbury Park area and there is nothing that can be done about it.  And as a result there is nothing than can be done with regards to redirecting passengers and getting people home.  This is the hellacious New Year’s Day Sunday service I had been fearing I would experience.

After a few minutes of tense enquiry we are told to head to Upminster where buses now apparently are.  In order to get to Upminster we now have to travel back in a westerly direction to Mile End and change onto the District Line.  This is such shit.

Against our inclinations we stomp back in unison onto the Central Line platform where Alastair Campbell is making an announcement over the PA that angry customers should be contacting the police and/or National Express East Anglia to register their complaints (as opposed to moaning at him and the London Underground).  It’s a fucking farce.

So, not even one day into 2011 we are officially having our first NEXD.

Upon stepping back onto the platform I am met by a five minute wait for the next tube back.  Today the trains are truly broken.

It is 5.20PM when at Leyton a female Information Jimmy announces that we are now to head to Fenchurch Street.  Why the change?  And then with this at 5.35PM I find myself back at Liverpool Street.

Here I have a quick conversation with a policeman where minutes later at 5.40PM I find myself back on the Central Line heading in an easterly direction.  Then nearly ten minutes later I am at Mile End looking to change onto the District Line.  And while I wait here I feel I am being mocked as the female Information Jimmy keeps saying “Upminister (sic)” over the PA.

As the hour rushes towards 6PM there is no Upminster train in sight, they’re just all going to fucking Barking.  That is one place I do not want to be on the first day of a new year.  My life is depressing enough.

When my tube finally arrives unfortunately as I take my seat, fucking NDubz decide to sit next to me.  As I listen to their pigeon English I cover my iPhone and drift away.  Thankfully they piss off at Upton Park but I have to admit and concede myself to the resignation that they managed to intimidate me.

By the time we arrive at Upminster it is now well past 6.30PM.  This was not what I had planned for my New Years Day.  Good work TFL and NXEA.

Once on a rail replacement bus its funny to note that it is almost exclusively white.  Does that mean celebrating and the forced fun of New Year’s is the domain of the Caucasian idiots?

About fifteen minutes later the bus is driving along the A12 and passing Brentwood.  What am I doing here?  Then finally we get to Ingatestone at 7.05PM where I am finally able to take a much required piss that I have needed since the shitty restaurant roughly three hours ago.  If in later life now I experience bladder complications it is times like these (brought on my NXEA) that should be looked back on.

Eventually/finally I manage to board a train to take me home.  One final rub is that it is a Clacton train which means it will depressingly stop at every backwards village station on the way.

When at times it didn’t look like it would ever happen, the train finally pulls into Colchester at 7.40PM.  Somehow what should be a one hour journey manages to take almost three and a half hours.  Has there ever been anything worse than National Express East Anglia?

With this I return to my car and drive home scathed and scathing.

Once home I decide to go through with my New Year’s resolution and delete my Facebook account.

Before long after my late night and subsequent long day I head to bed where tonight is Father Ted night on Channel Four with an amazing line-up of shows including the rarely seen The Heartbreak Kid starring Charles Grodin.  Frustratingly I fall asleep very early into it.

This year is shit already.

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